It really is okay to feel afraid sometimes, particularly during this pandemic.
But, one day I decided to choose courage.
I’m the type to panic, and I usually get past it by going for a 20-minute walk around the block. You might be thinking that it sounds lame—how is that being courageous?
The first few of weeks of the outbreak, I was afraid for myself, my family, and, well, pretty well everyone. My body shook internally, like when you’re cold inside and no amount of hot chocolate, blankets, or fuzzy socks was going to help. I wanted to curl into the fetal position and cover my head (and sometimes I did), desperately ignoring as much as I could. It felt like all of our collective fears were bombarding my energy field, and I could only make them go away by burying my head in the sand.
But, on this particular day, I wanted to go for the walk—the first one I’d taken since the outbreak. After lumbering down the long hallway, I broke out into the sunshine and immediately headed for the shady side of the street. Vampires don’t like the sun.
My underused muscles complained with every step. My hips creaked, my quads desperately tried to help me walk, and my low back felt like pulling sinewy meat apart. Within minutes, my whole body begged to get back to a sedentary position.
Fear wasted little time, harping about shame. “What about the men and women in essential services? That’s courage.” Then she tried belittling, “What you’re doing is nothing other than being a drama queen,” and then she was just mean, saying, “Get over yourself!” She, being well-practiced (not to mention a b*tch), succeeded in making me feel guilty before I’d even reached the edge of the driveway. She’s right, I was being ridiculous.
I kept walking, encouraged by Mother Nature. The sun, the flowers, and people mowing their green lawns all welcomed me back to the world beyond my patio. The stranger coming my way with his dog moved to the edge of the road to offer me six feet. Perhaps he recognized I was that woman struggling to break free. My heart filled as I lifted my hand in acknowledgment. A few minutes later, the dad of a family with small children nodded as I took my turn to step onto the edge of the road. In the space of 10 minutes, my heart witnessed kindness growing exponentially.
I took the shortcut onto the main street. When I began breathing heavily on the incline, I started to get riled up again. What if…I visualized the worst and just wanted to float back to the couch. I murmured words to my angels and kept walking. In response, my body immediately started to speak loud and clear. She was feeling the momentum and craved more, and pushing my shoulders back, my eyes focused on forward movements.
I thought about the strangers I had just connected with, and love spilled out of my eyes. I silently thanked them for their kindness. As if on cue, I heard an internal whisper: “Each time you feel a fear that’s unrelated to survival, ask yourself, what would a small step toward courage look like?” Wrapped in compassion from strangers, I reached the entry door 10 minutes later.
Five germ-y door handles that led from the building entry to my apartment had held me hostage for weeks. Many people had touched them, and stories of blue light showing all the COVID-19 on them played on my mind. Coming back, those fellow walkers were with me as I walked through the door-handle hell like a boss.
The thing is, when we feel afraid, we can berate ourselves with mean-girl thoughts and think we don’t have the right to feel that way. But in those moments of fear, we must close down the outside world of comparisons and move into allowing. No judgement—just be in the expression of that fear for a few moments. You’ll notice that she’s a bully, that she’s feeding off your fear energy, and that she takes advantage of that weakness. When you stop feeling bad for simply feeling something, you’ll have the courage to face her just long enough to hear the whisper of your soul…and then love floods in from all sources.
There are more courageous people out there than I can count. My walk doesn’t hold a candle to what they do every day. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to, because this isn’t a competition. I can appreciate and love them for everything they do. At the same time, I can value the small step that I made. Courage is moving beyond your fear in any small measure—baby steps when needed.
Our experiences are like the butterfly in the Amazon. The seemingly simple act of those people passing me on the street, smiling and without a word, comforting me, had that ripple effect. Little did they know that they helped me move beyond the door handles better than any lecture or berating could do. They inspired me to write so I can touch others and whisper to them, “It’s okay to be afraid, it’s not okay to judge yourself for it. That’s what feeds the bully, the judgement you place upon yourself for feeling that way. She’s hungriest when you dislike who you are in those moments.”
Back home, I was reminded of how complacent I had become, and my body had suffered. Those beautiful strangers showed me how compassion helps you face fear and makes it okay to shout, “Not today, asshole, not today.”
And with that, you’ll hear the whisper of your soul.